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Basic Electricity Terms

Specific to the electric industry:

Alternating current (AC) Electric current that reverses directions at regular intervals.
Amps Measurement of current flow through a conductor.
Atom The smallest unit of matter.  Everything in the world is made of different combinations of atoms.
Battery A single or group of connected electric cells that produces a direct electric current (DC).
Blackout Total loss of electric power from the power distributor.
Brownout A temporary reduction of voltage supplied by the electric power distributor.
Capacitance The ability of a component to store an electrical charge.
Charge Electricity produced by a surplus or a shortage of electrons in an object.
Circuit The path followed by a flow of electric current.
Conductor A substance or material that allows electrons, or electrical current, to flow through it.
Current The movement or flow of electricity through a conductor.
Direct Current (DC) Electric current flowing in only one direction
Distribution Lines Overhead or underground power lines that carry electricity through cities and neighborhoods to your home or business.
Electricity The flow of electrons.
Electron A negatively charged particle that orbits the nucleus of an atom. The flow of electrons produces electricity.
Energy The ability to do work. Energy = Power x Time
Energy Management System A system designed to ensure safety, security, and reliability to an electrical network.
Fission The splitting apart of an atom’s nucleus, releasing heat energy.
Fuse An electrical safety device consisting of a wire or strip of fusible metal that melts and interrupts the circuit when the current exceeds a preset amperage.
Generator  A machine which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. 
Geothermal Energy Heat energy that is stored below the earth’s surface.
Ground An electrical connection to the earth.


A power system's layout of its substations and power lines.


Electricity generated by flowing water making a turbine spin.

Insulator Any material that will not allow electricity to easily flow through.
Kilowatt (kW) A unit for measuring electrical energy. (demand)
Kilowatt Hour (kWh) One kilowatt of electrical energy produced or used in one hour. (energy)
Lightning A flash of light caused by an atmospheric electrical discharge between two clouds, or between a cloud and the earth.
Lightning Arrestor A device used to protect an electrical component from over-voltage.
Load An electrical device or devices that use(s) electric power.
Magnet An object surrounded by a magnetic field that has the ability to attract iron or steel.
Magnetic Field An identified force that exists around a magnet or electrical field.
Megawatt One million watts.
Meter An instrument that records the amount of something passing through it, such as electricity.
Motor A device that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.


A basic particle in an atom’s nucleus that has a neutral electrical charge.

Nuclear Power

Energy produced by splitting atoms in a nuclear reactor.


The center of an atom that contains both protons and neutrons.

Ohms The unit of measurement of the electrical resistance of a material.
Power  Energy used to do work measured in watts.
Power Factor The inefficient use of electrical power; the ratio of watts to volt-amperes.
Proton A basic particle in an atom’s nucleus that has a positive charge.
Radio An electrical device that is capable of sending or receiving messages by means of electromagnetic waves through the air.
Resistance The resistance to flow of electricity through a material.
SCADA Systems Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition.  A Computer system used to remotely monitor and control substation equipment.
Socket An opening into which something fits, such as a light socket.
Solar Energy Energy produced by the sun’s light or heat.
Spike A short duration of increased voltage lasting only one-half of a cycle.
Static Electricity An electrical charge built up due to friction between two dissimilar materials.
Substation An electrical facility where transformers lower high transmission voltages to be distributed to customers.
Surge A short duration of increased voltage.
Switch An electrical component used for connecting, breaking, or changing the connections in an electrical circuit.
Thermal Of, using, producing, or caused by heat.
Thermography A technique used for detecting and measuring the heat emitted by various objects, such as an electrical distribution panel. This technique can be recorded photographically.
Transformer  An electrical device that will raise or lower electricity’s voltage and current.
Turbine-generator A large fan(s) that is coupled to a generator field. This turbine (fan) is put into motion by the force of water, steam, or hot exhaust gases that rotate the turbine.
Volt The unit of measurement of force used to produce an electric current.
Watt A unit for measuring electric power.
Wind turbine A machine that uses energy from the wind and transfers the motion to an electric generator.


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